After each big tournament this season we’ll be reflecting on the latest action, so today let’s take a look at a few things learned after the Shanghai Masters.
Judd’s Domination Trumped
After a spectacular 2019 so far for Judd Trump, a lot of people had been claiming that his sustained success could lead to a longer period of domination in the sport.
Trump captured maiden Masters and World Championship titles in the second half of last season, has added two additional ranking crowns to his tally this year, and risen to the number one spot in the world rankings.
There’s no doubting the improved fortunes of the 30 year-old and, after more than a decade of promise, his true potential is finally bearing fruit.
However, it’s not really reasonable to think that the Englishman will completely dominate the rest of the tour.
Trump’s 13-game unbeaten run was snapped by Mark Allen in a one-sided Shanghai Masters affair on Thursday.
The fact that Trump will have to face formidable foes of Allen’s ilk week in and week out ensures that it’s extremely unlikely that he can contend for every single title.
Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry got away with domination in the 1980s and 1990s respectively in part because they were able to negotiate the early rounds with greater ease.
With the quality on the Main Tour at present, it’s inevitably going to be difficult for anyone to properly dominate.
Everyone except Ronnie O’Sullivan, maybe.
Victory for the “Rocket” on Sunday means that, after the Shanghai Masters, O’Sullivan has reached the final in two-thirds of the last dozen tournaments he’s participated in – etching his name on the trophy an incredible six times.
It isn’t a new revelation by any stretch of the imagination but once again the crowds turned out in their numbers to support the Shanghai Masters this year.
This event, going all the way back to its early editions as a ranking event a decade ago, has generally been the best in China on the calendar.
One of the main reasons for this is the fact there is actually a crowd there to appreciate the action and an atmosphere for the players to draw inspiration from.
One notable aspect of the venue at the Regal International East Asia Hotel worth noting was its size.
Considerably smaller than the majority of other arenas utilised for events in China, the evidence of empty seats was a lot less prevalent.
It obviously helps that there are less players to cater for, with the other ranking events staged in the country forced to incorporate two or three times the number of participants that were in Shanghai.
However, there is at least a lesson of sorts to be learned.
Venues don’t need to be 2,000-seaters, especially if there’s little to no chance of them being filled up.
The issue of Chinese attendances is a complicated one and it’s not as straightforward as simply getting the right venue, but it would help.
In this regard, Shanghai ticks the right boxes.
Earlier I was going to say: I’ve watched snooker championships from all over the world, and there’s nowhere that has an audience like the UK..
But in all fairness, the crowd in Shanghai has been excellent. #ShanghaiMasters
— Laurence Drew (@MacReadys_Beard) September 10, 2019
We’ve already spoken about the upward trajectory that Judd Trump has enjoyed this year.
Somewhat his contemporary, Ding Junhui’s career is continuing to take a severe nosedive.
Of course, it’s not the first time that the Chinese number one has suffered from a prolonged spell of bad form.
In 2016, Ding dropped out of the world’s top 16 and was forced to qualify for the World Championship – the year he went on to reach the final at the Crucible.
But has Ding ever looked quite this bad for such a long time?
Long gone are the days when the 32 year-old was considered as a credible threat in the bigger tournaments and it appears like only a matter of time that he’ll officially fall out of the elite bracket again.
Ding’s overall play has become slow, defensive, and turgid to watch – a far cry from the champion who won a record-equalling five ranking titles in the 2013/14 campaign.
The former Masters champion’s record against fellow top 16 members makes for dismal reading with just one victory over a player of such status in ranking events since the beginning of last season.
Granted, he did enjoy runs to the last four in both Shanghai and the Alexandra Palace last term – events that boasted high-quality invitational fields – but these instances are becoming less frequent.
One big win could change all that and help him to turn a corner but, with his confidence clearly low, where that performance is going to come from is anyone’s guess.
Ding is a player who belongs at the top but talent is no match for what goes on between the ears, and after the Shanghai Masters it disappointingly looks as though his struggles are going to continue.